Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. -- John 3:16

Like most people, I believe in free will.  Everyone acts as though man can choose, even those who declare that God has His elect who will be saved while He has chosen in His indisputable wisdom and sovereignty that others will go to hell. 

The words of John 3:16 are in red.  Jesus said that the Father loves the world to the extent that He was willing to send His only begotten Son to save it.  God loves the world.  It is what someone called an objective universal. 

Not only is divine love universal, it is unilateral -- as the Apostle John says in his first epistle:  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).  We did not love God.  We did not even know God.   Humanity is such a wreck that the Lord would be perfectly justified not only in not bothering with us but in positively condemning each and every one of us.  Yet Jesus says that He was not sent into the world to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:17).

Despite all the Lord has done, despite the redeeming work of Christ in His Incarnation, His death, His  burial, and His resurrection, it still comes down to us.  We decide whether we will be condemned or delivered.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already … (John 3:18).

There may well be some people who adopt universalism because it has that liberal, I’m-ok-you’re-ok new agey vibe to it.  Genuine Christian believers, though, may become open to universalism because they grasp the nature of God’s love.  Too, there is this plain statement by Paul:  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22).  It may be argued, reasonably, that this applies only to the elect.  After all, if we are all dead in trespasses and sin (and we are), how can a dead person respond to God’s call?   

The blood of Christ opened the way for all.  The veil was rent from top to bottom.  The partition that separated the elect from those outside of God’s sovereign choosing was taken down:

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility …  that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two … through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God  … In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:14-22).

Strictly speaking, I am not a universalist.  I think it possible for a soul to resist the love and grace of God, to be so self-absorbed as to consign itself eternally to the fires of hell.  But I also think it is possible for any soul, anywhere, anytime to respond to the Holy Spirit’s call, to recognize and respond positively to God’s offer of reconciliation.  In the end, those separated from a loving, forgiving, compassionate God will have no one to blame except themselves, while those who have accepted the gift will have no one to thank and praise but Christ alone.


John Lien said...

But I also think it is possible for any soul, anywhere, anytime (!!!) to respond to the Holy Spirit’s call, to recognize and respond positively to God’s offer of reconciliation.

I like that. So, maybe you're a conditional universalist? When this concept comes up I think about the poor souls who have never heard of Christ, past present and future. They must have a path. Right?

mushroom said...

Yes, I'm not entirely orthodox, I'm sure. I think there is a path. Faithfulness according to the knowledge that one has, I suspect, is acceptable to God. Romans 2:6-7 says, "He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life."

Universalism was a lot more acceptable a couple hundred years ago than it is today. That was George MacDonald's view.

I think that the horror of war of Hitler and all the ugliness that occurred in the first half of the 20th Century may have contributed to its decline. You can't just leave the door open for the Nazis and Stalin and all those guys. There has judgment and punishment for that magnitude of evil.

Lewis was a MacDonald disciple and couldn't help himself from expressing some universalist leanings. It's there in the The Great Divorce and The Last Battle, but he hedges a little, maybe because of the things his generation saw and endured.

Those Muslims in ISIS would make one think, too, that there's is no hope for someone that messed up. At least it would take a lot and maybe a very long time to straighten them out.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I'm also not, strictly speaking, a universalist. However, since Christ is God I do believe, for example, that a Jew can get into Heaven, if they are faithful.

I wonder why the Jehovah's Witnesses disregard John 3:16. I mean, that alone blows up their theory that only 144,000 people will get into Heaven. Besides, I'm sure, by now that the 144,000 mark has already been reached long ago, so what would be the point?
Ha, I know, don't try to make any sense of a cult. Not that they are the only cult.

mushroom said...

Cults are interesting, and they have the potential to right their own ship. A good example is the Worldwide Church of God founded by Herbert W. Armstrong, notable mostly in my mind for his weird "British Israel" teachings. After Herbert W. passed on, the doctrine was revised to be consistent with mainline evangelical teaching.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

That's good news. I don't recall hearing about that church before now.
When I was a kid, I sometimes would attend a Church of Christ church if I happened to be spending a Sunday at the house of a friend, because that's where his family went.

They believed the use of musical instruments in church was a sin, which I found to be odd. Not even a piano or organ. Without musical instruments, all the out of tune singers were really amplified.
I can't remember what scripture they used to base that belief on.
Other than that it was pretty much like the non-denominational, protestant church my mother sometimes attended.

They weren't against musical instruments outside of church, however.

mushroom said...

Yes, our little backwoods community was divided between Missionary (i.e., Southern) Baptists and Church of Christ. The disagreements could get pretty intense sometimes. I never heard the Baptists at the church I grew up in "preach against" the Church of Christ, but the CoC preachers would sometimes lambast Baptists. The worst we would do is call the CoC believers "Campbellites" (I gather they found that offensive) among ourselves or say that one had to pass through Campbellite water in order to get to heaven.

Church of Christ preachers do know their Bible. I follow this guy, Steve Finnell, who appears to be Church of Christ. He is genuine and sincere, though I disagree with him on some minor (in my view) points of doctrine.

mushroom said...

By the way, no time for a post today.